Healthy Recipes

Games On with These Healthy Sports Fan Favorite Foods

Turn the traditional tailgate into a nutrient-dense and filling feast for all fans.

by MS, RD

Games On with These Healthy Sports Fan Favorite Foods

The gridiron may feature a ferocious battle between two hungry opponents, but in many ways the real competition takes place in parking lots and living rooms. That’s where fans slip on their jerseys and aprons and try to outduel each other with a smorgasbord of fatty sausages, calorie-bomb dips, greasy chips, and cheese-drenched nachos that can quickly turn into a dietary fumble with waistline repercussions far beyond Monday morning. But if you rustle up some of your own less-damaging grub, it’s possible to enjoy tailgating without requiring a toss of the nutritional yellow flag. 

SEE ALSO: 12 Healthy Dishes to Bring to a Party

Whether you’re perched on the couch with a few buddies or you’ve set up shop in the stadium parking lot, these MVP dishes are sure to please a crowd of hungry fans and keep you and your guests from packing on more pounds than a lineman. So chill the beer, pull up a chair, and get ready to score your taste buds a win.

Meatball Tacos

Meatballs and tacos make an appearance at many gameday feasts in one form or another. This twist on tacos is a spicy and filling fan favorite that you’ll end up making even when the season is over when you need a quick and tasty dinner.

Ingredients (serves 5)

1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground pork
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb canned or fresh tomatillos, husked
1 avocado
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
10 corn tortillas
1/3 cup


1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook mushrooms and onion until liquid has evaporated. Cool for 10 minutes.

2. Mix pork, bread crumbs, cumin, chili powder, ó tsp salt, and black pepper and form into golf ball–size meatballs.

3. Preheat grill to medium. Thread meatballs onto skewers and heat until cooked through. Or place meatballs on a greased baking tray and cook at 425°F for 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 165°F.

4. Blend tomatillos, avocado, sour cream, scallions, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Divide meatballs among tortillas and top with tomatillo sauce and cilantro.


You can make the meatballs with ground chicken or turkey and swap out the corn tortillas for Bosto lettuce leaves.

The Macros

Calories: 532
Protein: 23g
Carbs: 42g
Fat: 21g

Chili Mac & Cheese

This one-pot wonder is the perfect make-ahead meal for keeping a rowdy crowd of football fans well fed. And by incorporating whole-grain carbs, lean beef, hearty beans, and vegetables, there is little chance your physique will be brought down.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups whole-wheat elbow pasta
1 (14 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
6 cups baby spinach

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and salt; cook until vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in beef and garlic; heat until meat is browned. Stir in oregano, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper; heat 30 seconds.

2. Add pasta, beans, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.Once simmering, cover the pot and cook until pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in spinach and heat just until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.


Splurge and treat your friends to ground bison for added nutrition. Pinto beans can stand in for kidney beans, and kale is another option for some green power.

The Macros

Calories: 415
Protein: 34g
Carbs: 50g
Fat: 10g

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